08/20/2018 - On Monday, Aug. 20, APWU National President Mark Dimondstein delivered the “State of the Union” address to the 2,038 delegates to the 24th Biennial National Convention. President Dimondstein addressed the successes of the past and struggles for the future. “I look forward to a spirited and productive week and am confident we will leave more united, inspired and dedicated to the cause of labor rights and dignity.”
President Dimondstein inspired delegates with stories of recent labor victories, including the education workers’ strike in West Virginia that sparked similar actions across the country. He stated how recent worker actions were reminiscent of the historic Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike and APWU’s own Great Postal Strike of 1970. “One in five people have joined street protests in the last two years…the needed culture of resistance spreads as we are Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow.”
The speech discussed the struggles facing the union, both with postal management and legislators.
Contrasting negotiation goals of the union with management’s desires, he laid out the fight ahead in securing a good contract. He also spoke about how many of the problems the labor movement currently finds itself in is due to a history of injustices heaped on workers, made worse by the White House.
President Dimondstein discussed how income inequality is widening and public services and vital social programs are being attacked – including the public Postal Service. He spoke of the serious threat to all postal workers from the Office of Management and Budget’s report and the impending White House task force report. “Sisters and brothers, privatization threats are not new. But we have never faced outright plans to sell the entire Post Office… we are facing the battles of our lifetime.”
However, APWU members can draw strength from our many victories of the past two years – like stopping Staples in Jan. 2017. “We are building unity, enthusiasm, union pride and community support that will help strengthen our everyday battles for workplace justice and defense of the public Postal Service.”
“The fat cats always underestimate the power of the 99%,” President Dimondstein continued. “Their attacks present an opportunity to educate and unite with the people, defend the wonderful national treasure and DEFEAT our enemies.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders Vows to Continue the Fight for the Public Good
“There is something fundamentally wrong in an economy in which the rich get much richer while the middle class shrinks and 30 million people live in poverty,” U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) exclaimed to a crowd of delegates on the opening day of the 24th National Biennial Convention.
Senator Sanders addressed the many injustices faced by today’s working-class society, and future fights for an economy that works for all people.
“We have got to end the international embarrassment of our country alone being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a right!” Notably, he mentioned, 60% of Americans support Medicare-For-All.
He also rededicated himself to fighting against corrupt politicians, backed by the likes of the Koch Brothers, which seek to privatize public services – including the Postal Service – to line their pockets.
“For helping to lead the fight to create a government and an economy that works for everybody and not just wealthy campaign contributors, thank you all,” he concluded.
Convention Delegates Honor Burrus
In the afternoon, delegates honored William “Bill” Burrus during the convention’s general session.
Local officers and members of the Cleveland Area Local lead the session in a tribute to the former APWU President, followed by a memorial video, a standing ovation, and the veterans in the delegation presented arms.
“The best way we can honor Bill’s life is by giving our best and continuing this just and noble struggle,” said President Dimondstein.
Steelworkers Vice President Fred Redmond Rouses Convention
Fred Redmond, International Vice President of the United Steelworkers, brought delegates to their feet with his rousing greetings to Pittsburgh on behave of the USW. “We embrace each other as sisters and brothers in the labor movement, and your union has been out front as a shining example of solidarity that unites working people.”
“We in the Steelworkers are prepared to stand with you and fight with this union to ensure that the U.S. Postal Service continues to be the most effective organization in providing vital services to the public.”
Female Speakers Rock the House
Groundbreaking women shined a bright light on the future during the opening day of the APWU’s 24th Biennial National Convention.
In addition to the dynamic female national officers, including National Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth “Liz” Powell, who constantly work to improve the lives of postal workers, the delegates heard from women who are making a difference for workers across world.
Christine Campbell, West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President, spoke on her experience with the teacher strike revolution. “We have to meet people where they are,” she explained, “not where we expect them to be.”
“Unions are the backbone of our society…in West Virginia public education, we don’t have collective bargaining. Our members can add and drop any given day – and they do. We had 1,200 people join just during the strike in West Virginia. They’re joining the union! They see value in organized collective action!”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) encouraged APWU members to be active in shaping a better society. “It is easy to point fingers at others and bemoan about the state of affairs, but it’s important that we ask ourselves how we can be part of the solution,” she said.
Cornelia Broos, Head of UNI Global Union Post & Logistics, shared a global perspective. “I can tell you from my international experience, that privatization of the post was never, ever successful…Our 2.5 million postal workers around the world will work together, fight together and we will win together.”
In a continuation of woman empowerment, over 400 attendees packed the room for the Post Office Women for Equal Rights (POWER) Caucus.
“My sisters we have a lot to do,” keynote speaker Elise Bryant, President of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) said.
“It is time for us to put all our power together and get women elected. A woman’s place is in her union. A woman’s place in the House of Representatives. A woman’s place is in the Senate. A woman’s place is in the White House,” she exclaimed to rousing applause.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Addresses the Delegation
In a fiery speech to convention delegates, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka attacked the threats to destroy the public Postal Service and postal workers’ jobs.
“They want to reduce mail delivery, they want to reduce your pension, they want to slash your pay they want to destroy your union,” he exclaimed.
“Brothers and sisters we say loudly and we say clearly not just no, but we say hell no. We are going to fight those attacks,” he continued. “We are going to fight for the postal service. We are going to defend our unions.”
Trumka went on to talk about what he sees as the resurgence of labor in America. “There were 262,000 new union members last year and 75 percent of them were under 35,” he said.
Trumka also emphasized the importance of solidarity, saying that a union is people doing things together they can’t do alone. “Solidarity got us here and solidarity is going to take us forward. We refuse to be walked over. We are the American labor movement and we will not be denied.”
He also had a message for every politician – democrat, republican or independent – who wants to delay or derail the labor movement’s progress.
“Our message is this,” he said. “Get on board or get the hell out of the way because the union train is coming through!”
Delegates to the 24th Biennial Convention got to work on the convention’s first day.
After adoption of convention rules, the delegates moved on to other business. The Finance Committee presented a report on the union’s finances over the last two years. “The administration should be commended for its continued belt tightening …” the committee wrote in its report.
The committee’s report as adopted by convention delegates emphasized the need to redouble efforts to organize the unorganized within APWU bargaining units in order to help keep the APWU on firm financial footing.
Attendees also began work on resolutions presented by the Labor-Management Committee that primarily focused on proposals for future contract negotiations.
As presented by Co-Chairperson Alice Lee of the Richmond Virginia Area Local the preliminary report for the APWU Credentials Committee for Monday, August 20 is as
The 24th Biennial Convention’s 2,038 delegates represent 307 locals, 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Also in attendance, 77 national officers and five retiree delegates.